Web Actions: A New Building Block for the Web

Accepted Session
Short Form
Scheduled: Thursday, June 28, 2012 from 4:45 – 5:30pm in B302/303


A web action is the user experience, code, and service for taking a specific discrete action, across the web, from one site to another site or application. You've all seen the buttons: Share, Read later, Follow, Like, Favorite, etc.

More than any one social site or service, web actions are the emergence of a whole new hypermedia building block.

This talk will give an overview of the anatomy of a web action, discuss web action user flow, and highlight best practices for both publishers and service providers.


Every once in a while, design and development practices emerge on the web that enable a leap forward in our understanding of its potential. Developers’ asynchronous use of JavaScript (JS) led to AJAX and breakthrough interactive web applications. Designers’ semantic use of class names led to microformats and widespread portability of contacts, events, and more.

In the past few years we’ve seen the rapid proliferation of web actions that allow the user to do something with the current page or site over on another site or application.

A web action is not a specific technology but uses a variety of technologies. Typical web actions consist of:

  • a visible hyperlink, button, or other element as an affordance to take a specific action
  • ideally, declarative markup to perform the action
  • javascript (that uses AJAX techniques) to unobtrusively enhance said markup to provide an inline and more responsive interaction
  • often an interstitial or simulated pop-up window for confirmation, choosing an option, or providing additional information
  • the execution of an action at another site or in another application

This talk will discuss how sites can best code (and design) support for web actions, and best practices for web action service providers and anti-patterns to beware of and avoid.

Speaking experience

SXSW, W3C, Web 2.0, OpenWebCamp, YUIConf, Web Directions, Voices That Matter: Web Design, An Event Apart, dConstruct, WordCamp, Supernova, Future of Web Apps, @media, ETech. More links, slides and videos: